Our summer camp exploration continues this week with guest blogger Ashley Fields. Ashley is the Director of Camp Courage. She began as a member of the clean-up crew in 1999 which eventually progressed to counselor. Ashley grew up in Stewartsville, MO. She attended college at the University of Central Missouri, where she obtained a Master of Science in Communication Disorders. Since 2008 she worked for the North Kansas City School District in the early childhood special education setting. In January 2015, she completed her Doctorate of Education with an emphasis in Special Education. Through all this, Ashley has always made Camp Courage a priority. Ashley enjoys spending her time with her husband and three children, as well as cooking and serving the community with her church Platte Woods United Methodist. Ashley credits Camp Courage for influencing her entire life, including her career and faith. She loves to share Camp Courage with others because she knows the joy it brings to all.
“The camp for fun. The courage to care.” This is the motto for Camp Courage. The first sentence is one that applies to all summer camps! Like many camps, Camp Courage has lots of fun things to do including fishing, swimming, games, dances, and special events. We have campers jumping out of their cars on arrival day with excitement and joy on their faces. What makes Camp Courage unique is that everything is designed for adults with special needs. This four day, all-inclusive camp is carefully developed by volunteers each year to offer new experiences to this special group of people. Our campers bring with them their own unique set of abilities and challenges, and we have the blessed opportunity to meet them where they are and share in some fun.
This is where the second part of our camp motto elevates to great importance, “The courage to care”. I will be the first to admit I was scared when I first arrived at Camp Courage. I was fourteen-years-old. My mom woke me up and said, “Get dressed. You are going to go volunteer!”. Reluctantly, I got ready to go, totally unaware of what I would be walking into. I didn’t expect to be greeted by adults with special needs. I had never really met anyone with special needs, let alone an adult with special needs. I immediately started picking out the differences between myself and the campers. We talked differently, we walked differently, we understood each other differently, and absolutely did not have the same views regarding personal space! I hurried into the kitchen as a way to hide, and then I watched.
Over the next day or so, I continued to watch and observe. I noticed volunteers that didn’t see the differences that were so obvious to me. They were laughing together. They were gathering in groups and playing games. They were having fun together. That word, together, is what I noticed the most. The volunteers weren’t babysitters or merely supervising the campers, they were friends! They were enjoying camp together.
I remember wanting to stay out at camp longer and longer each day, until I too was enjoying the camp together with the campers and volunteers alike; and that’s when I knew this was something special that I wanted to be a part of. I finally had the courage to care and could see each camper as a person just like me.
Jesus calls us to serve one another; the least, the lost and the last. Adults with special needs are a group that often gets forgotten about. Camp Courage exists to do this in a unique way. We all want to be seen and loved. I think that is what makes this camp so different. It wouldn’t be the same if we held camp, offered these fun experiences, and activities but didn’t stop to actually experience them together. To connect and make a friend. To show with our actions that each camper is seen and loved as an individual despite what the world has told them in the past or what lies they tell themselves.
This is the message that Jesus spoke to us then and continues to speak through us today. When we stop to really see someone as a person, love and serve them, we share the love of God. We are lucky enough to share this with a population that, in my opinion, reflects love like no other group of people. It’s unfiltered, unbiased, love and appreciation. I think if you ask any volunteer at Camp Courage they would say that they feel like they get more out their time there, then they could ever put in because of this.
So, are we serving others like God calls us to to? Yes. Does it take a little courage? Of course! But most importantly we are making sure that everyone at Camp Courage is seen and loved. They come to camp for the fun, and thanks to the love that God first gave us, we have the courage to extend that love to others.
Camp Courage is a non-profit organization ran entirely by volunteers without any paid positions. Camp leadership makes every attempt to keep the cost down for campers by seeking donations of all kinds.
For more information or to help support this organization, please contact Ashley Fields at email@example.com, find us on Facebook at Camp Courage Missouri or on on the web at http://www.campcouragemo.org/
A big thank you to Ashley for sharing her incredible experiences of seeing and loving others through this camp! Please give your support in anyway possible!
This week I encourage all of you to take the time to truly listen and love the individuals around you.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.